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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Building a Digital Genome Ark: Vertebrate Genome Project Releases 15 New Reference Genomes

[caption id="attachment_29874" align="alignright" width="300"] The duck-billed platypus genome is one of 15 high-quality assemblies released by the Vertebrate Genome Project[/caption] When creating a global genomic ark of creatures great and small, scientists are turning to the comprehensive coverage and quality of PacBio sequencing. The Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), an international consortium of more than 150 scientists from 50 academic, industry and government institutions in 12 countries, recently released the first 15 of an anticipated 66,000 high-quality reference genomes representing all vertebrate species on Earth. The VGP consortium spent three years selecting technologies and workflows to produce higher quality, “platinum-level” genomes,…

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Friday, August 31, 2018

International Eagle Conservation Efforts Bolstered By New Genome Release

Genetics is not only key to discovering and tracing new traits in an organism, but also conserving old ones -- and in some cases, the species itself. A deep understanding of genetic variation within and among species can be used to reconstruct their evolutionary history, to examine their contemporary status, and to predict the future effects of management strategies. With this in mind, scientists at the UK’s Wellcome Sanger Institute were keen to incorporate endangered species among 25 genomes to be sequenced as part of a project to mark its 25-year anniversary, and the first assembly to be released is…

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Something to Crow About: SMRT Sequencing Aids Conservation of Rare Hawaiian Bird

Brought to the brink of extinction, the future of Hawaii’s only lineage of the crow family (Corvidae) is looking up thanks to intensive conservation genomics efforts using PacBio de novo assemblies. In Hawaiian mythology, the ‘alalā is said to lead souls to their final resting place on the cliffs of Ka Lae, the southernmost tip on the Big Island of Hawaii. As one of the largest native bird populations, it also had a vital role in the ecosystem, helping to disperse and germinate seeds of many indigenous plant species. Disease, predators and shrinking habitats led to a complete loss of…

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

SMRT Science, Tips & Tricks Presented at Leiden Meeting

[caption id="attachment_28544" align="alignright" width="300"] SMRT Art: Jewelry created from upcycled SMRT cells by Olga Pettersson.[/caption] When was the last time you sent your DNA off to a day at the spa? Olga Pettersson of the SciLifeLab at Uppsala University lets her molecules relax for up to a week at room temperature to enable them to untangle, achieve better chemical purity, and better sequencing output. It was one of many practical pointers shared by presenters at the popular three-day gathering of PacBio users in Leiden, Netherlands last month. SMRT Leiden featured the scientific discoveries and analytical achievements of more than 30…

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Long Look Into Ant Brains Provides Epigenetic Insights

To understand the epigenetic regulation of brain function and behavior, scientists are turning to ants. To understand the ants, they are applying the accurate, long reads of SMRT Sequencing. While the genetic code of many types of ant have been combed through thanks to several genomes assembled through whole-genome shotgun sequencing, there have only been brief glimpses and guesses regarding gene regulation. Existing assemblies are highly fragmented drafts, making epigenetic studies nearly impossible. Eager to determine the epigenetic changes responsible for phenotypic and behavioral plasticity in Camponotus floridanus and Harpegnathos saltator ant species, a team of researchers from the Epigenetics…

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Egyptian Rousette Bat Genome Provides Clues to Antiviral Mystery

When humans are infected with the Marburg virus, the result is often lethal, with hemorrhagic fever and other symptoms similar to Ebola. When bats are infected, the result is…. nothing. The tiny mammals remain asymptomatic. In order to crack this antiviral mystery, a multi-institutional team of scientists sequenced, assembled and analyzed the genome of the bat species Rousettus aegyptiacus, a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus. Their findings contradicted previous hypotheses about bat antiviral immunity, which assumed  that bats had enhanced antiviral defenses, controlling viral replication early in infection, and developing effective adaptive immune…

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Maize Collaborators Embark on Ambitious 26-line Pangenome Project

[caption id="attachment_27906" align="alignright" width="201"] Computational biologist Doreen Ware harvests maize tissue for RNA isolation. Photo by Miriam Chua c/o USDA[/caption] The first reference genome for maize variety B73, completed in 2009, was a major milestone, and an improved version released by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists in 2017 provided a deeper dive into the genetics of the complex crop. Yet even this new robust reference is not enough for Kelly Dawe, Doreen Ware and Matt Hufford, who have taken up another ambitious project: creating a 26-line pangenome reference collection in just two years. “Maize is not only an important crop,…

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plant and Animal SMRT Grant Will Enable Insight Into Sightless Fish

When German diver Joachim Kreiselmaier reached the deepest parts of the Danube-Aach cave system, he couldn’t believe his eyes: a “strange fish,” with a pale body coloration and smaller eyes and larger nares and barbels than the loaches typically spotted nearby. He had discovered the first cavefish in Europe, and the northernmost in the world. “This is spectacular, as it was believed that the Pleistocene glaciations prevented fish from colonizing subterranean habitats north of 41° latitude,” said ecologist Jasminca Behrmann-Godel of the Limnological Institute of the University of Konstanz, who examined the fish Kreiselmaier brought back to the surface. “Initial…

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Monday, June 11, 2018

New High-Resolution Genome Assemblies Expand Our Understanding of Human-Ape Differences

Ever since researchers sequenced the chimpanzee genome in 2005, they have known that humans share the vast majority of our DNA sequence with chimps, making them our closest living relatives. So what, exactly, sets us apart? While prior ape genome assemblies were helpful in finding single nucleotide changes, many researchers speculate that a variation type that is more difficult to resolve, structural differences in regulatory DNA or in the copy number of gene families, play important roles in species adaptation. Large-scale efforts to sequence and assemble more ape genomes over the last 13 years have expanded our knowledge, but many…

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Codfish Study Employs Target Capture and SMRT Sequencing to Explore Evolution

Many investigators rely on targeted sequencing approaches for deep dives into genomic regions of interest. By designing specific probes -- often using short-read sequences directed towards the exome and supported by existing reference genomes or transcriptome assemblies -- scientists can home in on exactly the area they want to explore. But what about sequences in intergenic regions not covered by short reads, which could contain crucial regulatory elements varying between populations that might be of functional and evolutionary importance? Or, what about species lacking high-quality reference genomes to guide probe design? A team of Norwegian researchers are tackling these challenges…

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Scientists Aim to Develop “Genomic Ark” of High-Quality Bat Genomes

Pop quiz: Which animal accounts for around 20% of all living mammals, harbors (yet survives) some of the world’s deadliest diseases, lives proportionately longer than humans given its body size, and helps make tequila possible? Answer: Bats. From the tiniest bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) to the large (1kg) golden-capped fruitbat (Acerodon jubatus), the diversity and rare adaptations in bats have both fascinated and terrified people for centuries. Now, an international consortium of bat biologists, computational scientists, conservation organizations, and genome technologists has set out to decode the genomes of all 1,300 species of bats using SMRT Sequencing and other technologies.…

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Rice Revelations: Nine New Genome Assemblies Uncover Key Traits and Evolutionary Clues

Revered around the world, rice is a staple food for nearly half of the population. But as that population grows, rice breeders are faced with the challenge of producing crops that are high yielding, disease-resistant and nutritious, while at the same time being more sustainable. The International Oryza Map Alignment Project (OMAP) was initiated in 2003 to develop a set of high-quality genomic resources for the wild relatives of rice that could be used as a resource to discover and utilize novel genes, traits and/or genomic regions for crop improvement and basic research. Members of the consortium recently released new…

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Cattle Genome Overcomes Challenges of Haplotype Assembly

Genetic knowledge is powerful when it comes to breeding. The ability to trace desirable traits to the gene level can help create plants and animals that are adapted to existing and emerging challenges, such as temperature tolerance, productivity, or disease resistance.   By crossing two breeds of cattle, Angus (Bos taurus taurus) and Brahman (Bos taurus indicus), from opposite ends of the species spectrum, breeders can benefit from the Angus’s high productivity in cool environments and the Brahman’s tolerance for harsh, hot climates and the diseases and parasites found there. Genetically and phenotypically, the two subspecies are very different. And,…

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Dog Meet Dog World: Exploring Canine Genomes

From wild animals to perfect pets, dogs have undergone some interesting changes during their centuries-long domestication. Intent on unraveling some of the developmental secrets of the process, a team of scientists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, is doing deep dives into the genomes of a range of canine cousins along the evolutionary chain. A desert dingo named Sandy has already provided some insight into the process after its genome was sequenced as part of the 2017 Plant and Animal SMRT Grant. Study leader Bill Ballard described in this presentation at PAG 2018 that pure dingoes…

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Friday, February 9, 2018

JGI Sequencing Fungus for Clues to Better Biofuel Production

[caption id="attachment_23152" align="alignright" width="300"] Aspergillus ochraceus[/caption] The Department of Energy has its eyes on an unassuming solution to our bioenergy needs: Aspergillus. The fungal genus contains hundreds of variations, which include powerful pathogens, industrial cell factories, and prolific producers of bioactive secondary metabolites. The DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has embarked on an ambitious plan to sequence, annotate and analyze the genomes of 300 Aspergillus fungi, and the first results are in. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Linking secondary metabolites to gene clusters through genome sequencing of six diverse Aspergillus species,” a team…

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